Citing Sources

Subject Librarian

Marc Langston's picture
Marc Langston
OFFICE HOURS: Mon.-Wed. & Fri 8:00 a.m.- 10:00 a.m.

Please email me if you would like to schedule an appointment outside of my office hours.


Meriam Library Rm. 213

California State University, Chico

Chico, CA 95929-0295

Primary source citations

Every area of study has a discipline specific preference or practice for citing unpublished or primary source materials. Additionally, each professor will likely have personal preferences about how students should cite sources.

It is imperative to cite materials used in your research, especially when your source is held in an archive or special collections repository. Students need to properly cite the materials used in their research, so professors and other scholars, can locate the information.

A general rule for citations is to describe the item, progressing from the narrowest to broadest form of information (or from broadest to narrowest, depending on style). For research purposes, it is always best to note :

  • The Object or Resource you are citing : Usually, materials will have a local call number or object identification number, sometimes, the material will only be known by its title.

    • ​​[Bidwell, Annie letter to husband John Bidwell] June 11, 1869

  • The Box and Folder number : Some collections consist of a single file, others number in the hundreds. To fully cite the resource location, a box, folder number, and if there is a title written on the folder heading should be included.

    • Box 4, Folder 4: to John Bidwell. June 6, 1869- June 14, 1869

  • The Series and Sub-series : Manuscript collections consisting of many boxes are sometimes organized into groups of records, grouped by format, topic, or activities. If applicable, include the series title and number where you have located your resource.

    • Correspondence and other papers, 1869-1918

  • The Collection name and Catalog number : What is the name of the collection in which you have located your resource? What is the identifying catalog number?

    • Annie E. Kennedy Bidwell Papers, MSS 003

  • The Repository : What is the name and location of the institution which owns the object you are citing?

    • Meriam Library Special Collections and University Archives, California State University, Chico, CA.

Keep in mind, your professor will likely also have specific guidelines about citation rules, do confirm what style they prefer, before your final submission is due. Mastering different citation styles is a challenge, but please feel free to reach out to the Meriam Library Special Collections archivists and librarians if you have any further questions at

Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Sources

This short 2.5 minute video created by Suffolk County Community College Library provides a broad outline of what Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Sources are, with examples of each.

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